STELLAR names such as Ronaldo, Rooney, Van Persie and Giggs graced the Old Trafford turf this week when Manchester United played Real Madrid in the Champions League.
But only days earlier, the Theatre Of Dreams had belonged to a wide-eyed Hucknall schoolboy.
For 13-year-old goalkeeper Curtis Hall was treated to the experience of a lifetime -- a trial that could lead to a career with United.
The trial capped a remarkable couple of years for Curtis, who lives with his dad Glen, mum Nicola and 11-year-old brother Owen at the family home on Watnall Road.
There was no hint of future stardom as he played in defence for the Rolls-Royce Leisure Under-11s team managed by his dad. He had never even played in goal.
But then one day, at the annual Priory Celtic youth tournament at Eastwood, he had to stand in for the team’s regular ‘keeper, who had been ill on the journey to the ground.
And not only did he impress, he also caught the eye of watching Notts County scout and youth academy chief, Mick Leonard, a renowned former professional goalie.
“Curtis had everything you look for in a young ‘keeper,” remembers Leonard, who made 204 league appearances for Notts County between 1979 and 1988, including in the top flight.
“He had good size, he was a good shot-stopper and his kicking was excellent.
“When I walked over and his dad told me he’d never played in goal before in his life, I was gobsmacked. I told him he was a natural!
“I offered Curtis a six-week trial at our academy. He loved it and has been here ever since.”
However, he might not be at Notts for much longer because he was spotted by Manchester United scouts at a recent game against Hull City.
“They came to watch another player, but liked the look of Curtis,” said Leonard. “I told them he is one of the best ‘keepers I have seen for that age group.
“He is a very mature lad for a 13-year-old. His mentality is way above his years. He analyses his performances, listens and wants to improve. He is a credit to his parents.”
Curtis’s trial at United was organised during the half-term school holiday last month. Now they are to watch him in a couple more games before deciding whether to sign him.
The fact that football-mad Curtis, who goes to National Comprehensive School, is a Liverpool supporter (!) failed to dampen the “tremendous experience” he was treated to while in Manchester.
“He went up on the Monday and was shown round the training ground at Carrington before being taken to United’s Premier League game against Reading,” said Leonard, whose career also took him to Halifax Town, Chesterfield and Hong Kong.
“He was put up in a hotel for four nights and as well as training, he was given a tour of Old Trafford.”
Dad Glen added: “There were 15 other lads on the trial, including some from all over the world -- countries such as Slovakia, Sweden and Norway. He also trained with the son of former United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who is a year older.
“Now we have to wait for United to contact Mick. If they want him, it will mean big decisions have to be taken. Either we will have to move to the Manchester area as a family or Curtis will he placed with a family and at a school up there.”
Who knows? It could be Curtis Hall, of Hucknall, taking on Real Madrid or Barcelona in the Champions League of 2023!